City Gay and Country Gay

Monday, October 29, 2007

Guest Gay: Dueling flans

Courtesy of our Guest Gay, Clay

“You had your choice of any dessert on the menu, and you chose flan? What were you thinking?!?”

That was my friend Laura’s response after I chose my free birthday dessert at Superior Grill. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure if I had made a mistake by ordering the flan. I’d only had it at Superior Grill in New Orleans, and the last time was pre-Katrina. Would it be the same delicious dessert that I remembered? My choice was confirmed after she had her first bite and said, “Wow, this IS good!”

I’ve been meaning to attempt this for awhile. I like to challenge myself and expand my skills in the kitchen, so this seemed like the perfect dish for that. Since I was pretty sure that this was the type of dish that could be maligned by the wrong recipe, I decided to try 2 different recipes and then compare the outcomes, hence the dueling flans. In one corner, we have a Saffron flan that is billed as “traditional.” In the other corner, we have a Tres Leches flan that sounded delish. Which one will win the contest, or will they both be losers?

I’ve included the recipes at the bottom of the post, so skip down if you want the exact steps. To begin both recipes, you have to make caramel and pour it into your cake pan. I failed miserably the last time I tried to make caramel for an ice cream, so this was my chance to tackle it again. As it turns out, I didn’t have the heat on high enough last time. This is what it should look like as it starts to melt.

Once it’s completely melted, you pour it into your 9” cake pan. This was a little tricky because I guess my pans were too cold so it didn’t really spread as much as I would have liked. Fortunately, this had no effect on the final dish.

While I let the caramel pans cool in the fridge, I prepared the mix for each flan. Since they called for being baked at different temps, I started with the Saffron flan first. Once it was finished, I put in the Tres Leches flan. The key to this step is the water bath. I use a broiler pan (without the top grate) because it’s the deepest tray I have that can fit a cake pan in it and still hold enough water. Here is how they turned out after baking:

Pre-flip leches

Pre-flip saffron

Now let them cool for several hours, the longer the better. If you’ve ever made cheesecake and tried to eat it too soon after baking, then you know what a mess custard desserts can turn into if you don’t let them set up. Once they cooled, I inverted them onto plates. Apparently the fat in the batter mixes with the caramel in the oven and turns it into a permanent liquid state. That’s how you get that delicious caramel sauce on top of the finished product!

Post-flip leches

Post-flip saffron

They basically look the same at this point, although the Tres Leches turned out a little better (maybe I improved with practice). The Saffron made a nice slice, but I botched the Tres Leches while removing it; you’ll have to see the remaining flan instead:

Missing slice of leches

Slice of saffron

The textures were similar, so I was pleased with that. But in the end, it all comes down to taste. The saffron flavor was a little overpowering to me, so I did not enjoy it as much compared to the flan at Superior Grill. The Tres Leches flan, however, tasted exactly like the one at Superior Grill! It was just sweet enough and very pleasing to the palate. This is now my official go-to recipe for flan.

Tres Leches wins!


Saffron Flan (click the link for the recipe)

Tres Leches Flan (recipe follows)


1/2 cup sugar
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Cook sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes or until melted and medium-brown in color. Quickly pour into a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides. Using oven mitts, tilt cake pan to evenly coat bottom and seal edges.

2. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer in a large bowl 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; add eggs and egg yolks, and beat until well blended. Add sweetened condensed milk and next 3 ingredients, beating at low speed 1 minute. Pour milk mixture over sugar in pan. Place cake pan in a roasting pan; add hot water halfway up sides of cake pan.

3. Bake at 325° for 1 hour or until edges are set. (The middle will not be set.) Remove from oven; remove cake pan from water, and place on a wire rack. Let cool completely. Cover and chill at least 8 hours. Run a knife around edges to loosen, and invert onto a serving platter.

Southern Living, NOVEMBER 2006


Country Gay said...

Those look yum.

I have been a slacking gay, and I haven't eaten anything remotely interesting for some time.

Clay said...

Do you have any idea how hard it is to finish off an entire flan by yourself? This time, it just wasn't possible (I was trying to stay somewhat in shape for Halloween). But next time, I think I'll be up to the challenge.

David Jack said...

um, that looks good. i should have swung over for some when i was in town.